Effective presentations

time to complete: 20-25 minutes

So, let’s start with thinking about what makes a presentation effective. We are sure you have plenty of ideas based on your previous experience of attending or delivering presentations. There’s definitely a lot that can be said about presentations; if you were to search for ‘effective presentations’ in Google, you would get 215,000,000 results!!!

Here, we will briefly introduce some factors that we think are very important and therefore worth remembering, regardless of your context and type of presentation you need to deliver.


Careful planning and preparation

searching for articles and other resources
Good time management checking your progress regularly
Relevant and interesting contentdeciding what to include and what to leave out 
Clear structureproviding an outline of your presentation
Good communication skills speaking clearly 
Appropriate use of technologiesbeing familiar with the equipment and/or software
Clear supporting documentationproviding a note-taking handout
Suitable audience participationexplaining when you will take questions

Listed adapted from Chivers & Shoolbred (2007, p.20)

This list is not intended to be exhaustive; it is merely some examples of what you can do. Let’s have a look at some more examples by doing a task.

Task: Match the examples to the features of a good presentation.

Now, we are moving on to communication skills. Let’s have a look at three different types of communication and learn why they are important for presentations.

To find out more about pronunciation and work on your pronunciation skills such as word stress, intonation, chunking, etc., visit our self-access pronunciation guide (link below)

Task: Reflect on your personal experience as presenter and/or member of an audience. What other factors can affect visual communication? Note down some ideas, then check with our suggested answers below.

Here are some things that can have a negative impact on visual communication:

  • Too much text
  • Too many bullet points
  • Too many different font colours and types
  • Distracting colours or colour combinations
  • Too many animations/transitions
  • Poor quality images e.g. too small or pixelated
  • Images that are irrelevant to the content or might be considered unprofessional
  • Visuals that don’t match the nature of your data 
  • Spelling or grammar mistakes
  • Missing information/slides
  • Slides in the wrong order

Final word

As you can see, an effective presentation is not just a matter of how fancy your slides are or how confident you are with speaking in public. Presenting effectively involves careful planning and preparation in terms of content, organisation, language, technology and, of course, with your audience in mind. The decisions you will make are determined by your own context. Just imagine the following three scenarios and consider the choices you would make when preparing for your presentation.

Scenario 1

  • Assessed presentation (Weight: 30%)
  • Brief offers 5 topics to choose from
  • Slides required – 10 minutes
  • Pre-recorded & submitted via Blackboard
  • 5 minute Q&A with tutor on Google Meet
  • Written feedback from tutor – marking criteria sheet

Scenario 2

  • Presenting at a conference 
  • Your research project
  • Slides required – 20 minutes
  • Face-to-face (number of attendees= not known)
  • Room includes desktop, interactive whiteboard and projector
  • Q&A 10 minutes

Scenario 3

  • Informal presentation
  • Present your idea for your research proposal to your classmates
  • No slides – 3 minutes
  • Online ‘live’ (small groups – Blackboard Collaborate)
  • Q&A and peer feedback